OF WAR AND PRIDE
After the servants of David were disgraced by the king of Ammon there was war between them. God had not given Ammon for Israel to occupy, but their king had returned an insult to David after a gesture of friendship. David’s military leaders finished that war and another one with the Phillistines.
And it came to pass, that after the year was expired, at the time that kings go out to battle, Joab led forth the power of the army, and wasted the country of the children of Ammon, and came and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried at Jerusalem. And Joab smote Rabbah, and destroyed it. And David took the crown of their king from off his head, and found it to weigh a talent of gold, and there were precious stones in it; and it was set upon David’s head: and he brought also exceeding much spoil out of the city. And he brought out the people that were in it, and cut them with saws, and with harrows of iron, and with axes. Even so dealt David with all the cities of the children of Ammon. And David and all the people returned to Jerusalem. And it came to pass after this, that there arose war at Gezer with the Philistines; at which time Sibbechai the Hushathite slew Sippai, that was of the children of the giant: and they were subdued. And there was war again with the Philistines; and Elhanan the son of Jair slew Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, whose spear staff was like a weaver’s beam. And yet again there was war at Gath, where was a man of great stature, whose fingers and toes were four and twenty, six on each hand, and six on each foot and he also was the son of the giant. But when he defied Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimea David’s brother slew him. These were born unto the giant in Gath; and they fell by the hand of David, and by the hand of his servants. 1 Chronicles 20:1-7
The Philistines still had giants among them and a few other freakish mutants who could not help them in battle with Israel. That is not a problem to Israel after the example of faith David demonstrated with Goliath. We still need to remember that the world is influenced by the powers of the unseen spiritual realm. An enemy is always looking for the area of our weakness to test our defenses. The enemy is about to try a new approach.
And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel. And David said to Joab and to the rulers of the people, Go, number Israel from Beersheba even to Dan; and bring the number of them to me, that I may know it. And Joab answered, The LORD make his people an hundred times so many more as they be: but, my lord the king, are they not all my lord’s servants? why then doth my lord require this thing? why will he be a cause of trespass to Israel? Nevertheless the king’s word prevailed against Joab. Wherefore Joab departed, and went throughout all Israel, and came to Jerusalem. And Joab gave the sum of the number of the people unto David. And all they of Israel were a thousand thousand and an hundred thousand men that drew sword: and Judah was four hundred threescore and ten thousand men that drew sword. 1 Chronicles 21:1-5
Is this a sin of pride to know the number of your armies? Or is it possibly a lack of faith to trust in numbers instead of the promises of God? If Satan was responsible, God allowed it as he had with Job. God still had a plan to turn the events for good in the end. Joab was aware that David’s request was not the right thing to do, but he was an obedient soldier up to a point.
But Levi and Benjamin counted he not among them: for the king’s word was abominable to Joab. And God was displeased with this thing; therefore he smote Israel. And David said unto God, I have sinned greatly, because I have done this thing: but now, I beseech thee, do away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly. And the LORD spake unto Gad, David’s seer, saying, Go and tell David, saying, Thus saith the LORD, I offer thee three things: choose thee one of them, that I may do it unto thee. 1 Chronicles 21:6-10
In this account Joab has omitted part of the tribes from his count. Was God displeased by his rebellion or by David’s fall into the temptation of pride? David took the blame and God offers to let him chose the punishment.
So Gad came to David, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Choose thee Either three years’ famine; or three months to be destroyed before thy foes, while that the sword of thine enemies overtaketh thee; or else three days the sword of the LORD, even the pestilence, in the land, and the angel of the LORD destroying throughout all the coasts of Israel. Now therefore advise thyself what word I shall bring again to him that sent me. And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: let me fall now into the hand of the LORD; for very great are his mercies: but let me not fall into the hand of man. So the LORD sent pestilence upon Israel: and there fell of Israel seventy thousand men. 1 Chronicles 21:11-14
David allowed God to make the choice, hoping for mercy instead of trusting his own thinking. God chose to send disease among them as their sentence. But true to his nature, God gave mercy to them.
And God sent an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it: and as he was destroying, the LORD beheld, and he repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed, It is enough, stay now thine hand. And the angel of the LORD stood by the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite. And David lifted up his eyes, and saw the angel of the LORD stand between the earth and the heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders of Israel, who were clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces. And David said unto God, Is it not I that commanded the people to be numbered? even I it is that have sinned and done evil indeed; but as for these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, O LORD my God, be on me, and on my father’s house; but not on thy people, that they should be plagued. 1 Chronicles 21:15-17
When God sends a vision that David and these elders can actually see, it impresses them to submit themselves in obedience. Any subtle communication from God still impresses us but the dramatic appearances command respect. David intercedes for the people his error has condemned.
Then the angel of the LORD commanded Gad to say to David, that David should go up, and set up an altar unto the LORD in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite. And David went up at the saying of Gad, which he spake in the name of the LORD. And Ornan turned back, and saw the angel; and his four sons with him hid themselves. Now Ornan was threshing wheat. 1 Chronicles 21:18-20
The actual instructions are spoken to the prophet Gad who David will obey. If a king will submit to God and his messengers, a kingdom can prosper. Not every world leader understands this. Ornan also saw the angel and he hides his children out of fear. Most angelic appearances require the angel to say “Fear not”, but fear is still needed here. The fear of the Lord gives David wisdom here.
And as David came to Ornan, Ornan looked and saw David, and went out of the threshingfloor, and bowed himself to David with his face to the ground. Then David said to Ornan, Grant me the place of this threshingfloor, that I may build an altar therein unto the LORD: thou shalt grant it me for the full price: that the plague may be stayed from the people. And Ornan said unto David, Take it to thee, and let my lord the king do that which is good in his eyes: lo, I give thee the oxen also for burnt offerings, and the threshing instruments for wood, and the wheat for the meat offering; I give it all. And king David said to Ornan, Nay; but I will verily buy it for the full price: for I will not take that which is thine for the LORD, nor offer burnt offerings without cost. So David gave to Ornan for the place six hundred shekels of gold by weight. 1 Chronicles 21:21-25
David would not take advantage of his subject after being offered mercy by God. His offering is made in the hope of gaining a full pardon for his people.
And David built there an altar unto the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, and called upon the LORD; and he answered him from heaven by fire upon the altar of burnt offering. And the LORD commanded the angel; and he put up his sword again into the sheath thereof. At that time when David saw that the LORD had answered him in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite, then he sacrificed there. For the tabernacle of the LORD, which Moses made in the wilderness, and the altar of the burnt offering, were at that season in the high place at Gibeon. But David could not go before it to enquire of God: for he was afraid because of the sword of the angel of the LORD. 1 Chronicles 21:26-30
Seeing the angel was dramatic, but now the fire from heaven consumes the offering. The sword of the plague is sheathed before David’s eyes. David made offerings again in response to this mercy. Ordinarily the Tabernacle was designated under the law as the only place to sacrifice. Now God has designated a new location for sacrifice, and David is unable to return to the old site. Thus the site of the Temple of Solomon is determined long before the first plans or cornerstone will be laid. The subtle acts of God are more significant than the dramatic things in life.
The temple was later destroyed by the Romans, scattering the Jews over the ancient world. That dramatic act was impressive in a sad way too. But dispersing the Jews also sent the seeds of Christianity all over the known world. A destructive event came hand in hand with a path to life and mercy.
That threshing floor is now occupied by the Moslem Dome of the Rock, seemingly a barrier to restoring Jewish worship. Many believe this temple site was the place God had designated for the test sacrifice of Isaac. What an incredible focal point for the fury of our modern political and religious conflict. Three variations on the faith of Abraham are focused on a single material contact point. Watch for the Angel of the Lord to return soon!